Genre: Dystopia, Urban Fantasy, YA
Publisher Greenwillow Books on July 5, 2016
My thanks to Greenwillow Books for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
Schwab’s beautifully spare writing has a way of capturing your attention immediately, and I was hooked on THIS SAVAGE SONG from the opening sentence. Her style is ideal for a dystopian novel as she’s able to convey the stark reality of life in a place like Verity, where evil lurks in the hearts of more than just the Monsters.
More than a decade ago, the Phenomenon occurred, an event that’s turned any act of violence into a breeding ground for Monsters. If you kill someone, the energy from that act will manifest into one of the three species of Monsters, who carry on the cycle of violence…or consume the souls of the guilty.
For August Flynn and Kate Harker, determining who the real monsters are has always been difficult. Living in two separate halves of the city of Verity, these teens have very different lives. August is the son of a paramilitary commander who seeks to fight and kill the monsters while on the other side Kate is desperately scrambling to earn the respect and love of her father, the Mafioso-like man who sells protection from the Monsters – the ones he keeps on retainer.
If you’re anticipating that these two star-crossed teens will inevitably fall in love, you called it too soon. August and Kate are barely even friends, let alone lovers. But being isolated from and feared by your peers – even when it’s what you want – gets lonely after sixteen years, so when these two meet and sense a kind of kinship, a tentative alliance is formed.
Victoria Schwab does a fantastic job with world building in THIS SAVAGE SONG, crafting Verity into the kind of place with an atmosphere of tension so thick that you practically have to wade through it. There were several scenes set in the underground of the city that had me holding my breath and white-knuckling my e-reader, that’s how anxious I was! The wastelands outside of the city’s boundaries were also very well done, and had a distinct post-apocalyptic, everyone-for-themselves kind of feel to it.
The various abilities and characteristics of the three Monster species were also really well done, especially the incorporation of music. Corsai, Malchai, and Sunai are all distinct species with distinct goals and abilities, but the most fearsome of all is the Sunai, the unknowable entity who will sing you a song and steal your soul. Maybe I’m easy, but if music is part of your magic system I’m almost guaranteed to love it!
Now obviously THIS SAVAGE SONG isn’t a subtle book, what with the frequently repeated theme of violence begetting violence. But you know what? That’s a message that more people need to hear, so I wasn’t too bothered by the repetition. I also enjoyed reading about the internal struggles of August and Kate, one to resist the need for violence and the other ruthlessly suppressing their instinct for empathy. From what I’ve seen on social media, Schwab has a tendency to write about torn and ruthless characters and that was certainly the case here.
As this was my first book by Schwab, I can’t compare it to her other works. But I really liked what I saw and I’m very eager to dive into her previous works so I can see how they stack up! Recommended for fans of dystopia, good writing, and morally ambiguous characters.